GNAC Begins Conference Season With 5 Teams Ranked
Rachel Murray is averaging 10.5 points and 5.8 rebounds for Seattle Pacific which hosts Northwest Nazarene Thursday.
Rachel Murray is averaging 10.5 points and 5.8 rebounds for Seattle Pacific which hosts Northwest Nazarene Thursday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. – The 2012-13 Great Northwest Athletic Conference basketball title races begin Thursday.

GNAC teams have been impressive in the early non-conference portion of the schedule – 19 of the 20 teams have winning records  and five are nationally ranked.

Western Washington’s two teams are both unbeaten and ranked in the Top 10.  The Viking men have opened defense of their NCAA Division II national title with five victories  extending their two-season win streak to 11 games and are ranked sixth in the NABC national poll.

The WWU women, meanwhile, are 4-0 and are ranked eighth nationally in the WBCA national poll.

Also ranked in the men’s poll are Seattle Pacific (5-1) at No. 13 and Alaska Anchorage (6-1) at No. 25.  The Seawolves are coming off a 2-1 record last week against Division I competition at the Great Alaska Shootout earning them GNAC Team of the Week honors.

Simon Fraser (6-1) is ranked No. 16 in the women’s poll.  Two other teams - Alaska Anchorage (27th overall) and Northwest Nazarene (49th overall) – were among “others receiving votes” in the poll.

Northwest Nazarene’s women, who are the only other unbeaten team in the GNAC (5-0) in addition to the two WWU squads, make their conference debut Thursday at Brougham Pavilion against Seattle Pacific (3-1).

Other games Thursday on the women’s slate include Central Washington (3-2) at MSU Billings (4-2), Saint Martin’s (3-2) at Simon Fraser and Western Oregon (4-2) at Western Washington.  Defending GNAC champion Alaska Anchorage (3-2) and Alaska Fairbanks (0-6) are idle prior to meeting Saturday at UAA.

On the men’s side, Thursday’s schedule includes defending conference champion Montana State Billings (4-2) at Alaska Anchorage, pre-season favorite Seattle Pacific at Alaska Fairbanks (4-3), Central Washington (4-1) at Saint Martin’s (3-2) and Northwest Nazarene (3-2) at Western Oregon (4-2).

Western Washington makes its conference game debut Saturday at Simon Fraser (5-1).

IMPRESSIVE PERCENTAGES: GNAC men’s teams are 43-15, a winning percentage of .741.  Only during the 2009-10 season (.753) have conference teams finished the non-conference part of their schedule with a better percentage ... GNAC women’s teams have a combined record of 35-18, a .660 percentage.  Twice conference teams have had a better non-conference percentage – in 2007-08 when they won at a .708 clip and in 2002-03 when they won two-thirds of their non-conference contests (.667) as a group.